How To Conduct a Secure Code Review
Secure code reviews are crucial for building applications that protect users, developers, and data. Here's everything you need to know to conduct one.
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Secure code reviews are crucial for building applications that protect users, developers, and data. The first step in conducting one is understanding the specific goals and a few essential tips for success.
What Is a Secure Code Review?
A secure code review analyzes code for security vulnerabilities. Like proofreading an essay, coders carefully read through each line of code, often in a team and with the help of automated tools.
Unlike a standard code review, a secure one focuses on security features and weaknesses. Catching bugs is still important, but code must also be free of security flaws and risks before moving on to the next development stage.
Tips for Conducting a Secure Code Review
You can conduct a secure code review using standard practices, such as pair programming, but a few tips will help you concentrate on security aspects. Before getting started, assemble a team of coders and stakeholders to work with. Code reviews are more effective when they are collaborative.
1. Review Throughout Development
One of the most common mistakes developers make when performing code reviews is waiting until the end of the development cycle to complete them. They should be performed numerous times throughout the process. You can even schedule them around regular checkpoints or milestones.
There are a few reasons you should review throughout development. First, it makes secure code reviews much more manageable. You can analyze the code in smaller chunks while new segments are still fresh in your mind. Second, you avoid the risk of building new ones on top of older blocks with undetected security flaws.
2. Focus on Security Vulnerabilities
Searching for every little bug or inefficiency in a code review can be tempting. However, it's best to focus on security vulnerabilities first and foremost. This is a highly time-consuming project, so concentrating on security-related flaws will ensure the process is as efficient as possible.
When working on a secure code review, avoid the temptation to correct low-priority things like syntax or style. Even bugs that don't pose security risks can be left to a general code review. It is helpful to prepare a checklist of top security vulnerabilities beforehand. For example, authentication, access control, cookie handling, and encryption commonly encounter security-related flaws.
3. Employ Threat Modeling and Testing Tools
An important part of eliminating vulnerabilities in your code is understanding where they are. Code can easily develop risks that may not be obvious yet pose a danger to users. A secure code review utilizes threat modeling tools to identify your code's full range of security weaknesses.
Zero-day attacks are a great example of how threat modeling can be applied. They occur when hackers exploit a security weakness before developers or users realize it is there. As a result, these events are hazardous if developers don't identify them early. You can minimize the likelihood of zero-day attacks by using security tools like penetration testing and AI threat modeling in the secure code review process.
4. Use Automation Wisely
Automated tools can be beneficial in a secure code review, but it's important not to rely on them completely. Today's coding AI models are advanced and useful, but they cannot compete with the eyes and knowledge of an actual programmer.
It is important to remember that most AI models are still "black box AI." This means developers and users have no visibility of how the AI's logic works, leaving them vulnerable to false conclusions or biases in the programming. During training, an AI model can unintentionally absorb incorrect connections or human prejudices that reduce accuracy and objectivity.
These errors can jeopardize a code review's success and the application's safety. For small tasks, automated tools are usually harmless. However, a real developer should still be the commanding force behind secure code reviews.
5. Monitor Access Control
Code reviews are collaborative processes, so it's normal for a team to have access to an application's code during development. However, a secure code review is a perfect chance to check in on code access and minimize it as much as possible. Leaving it available to dozens of people can compromise its success and application, user, and developer safety.
Make an access control checkup part of your secure code review process. Create a list of the people actively working on the project and those who need access. Everyone else should be removed from the approved users with access to the code.
Building Safer Applications
A secure code review ensures websites, applications, and other programs are safe for users and developers. It can be easy for weaknesses to slip through the cracks during development. Code reviews ensure these security risks are identified and resolved, helping developers create safe, secure products.
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